Cumbrian charity swim cancelled because 'lives at risk'

source: http://www.newsandstar.co.uk

A charity swim on Ullswater due to take place today has been cancelled because of a clash over safety concerns.

The managing director of Distant Horizons outdoor centre, who was approached by the Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS) to run the 10k challenge, was forced to cancel, he says, after the society increased the number of entrants from 100 to 180.

“I explained to them that this was in breach of our original agreement, and that 180 was far too large a number, especially as there had already been three deaths on Ullswater this year,” Jason Beverley, 39, said.

“I felt 100 swimmers was the absolute maximum for the event as the risk-assessment showed. The lives of the swimmers would have been put at risk if we had agreed to the increased demands made on us,”

His centre, at Watermillock, had made health and safety checks and would have used powered safety boats and help from 20 expert canoeists – 10 of them from Carlisle Canoe Club.

Club members had also agreed to accompany the swimmers en route from Glenridding to Watermillock.

“Following a site visit from OSS founder Kate Rew earlier in the year, and a meeting in London I had with Breakthrough Breast Cancer, everything looked set for the event to go ahead,” he added.

“Then I received a phone call from Ms Rew saying she had now acquired 180 swimmers for the event, and how ‘it would be marvellous for the charity’.”

Each swimmer had to raise £1,000 but Mr Beverley said they could not ‘put a price on someone’s safety’ and refused to run the event.

He said he was put under increasing pressure by phone calls and emails and was accused of being unprofessional.

Mr Beverley, who set up Distant Horizons 17 years ago, runs events for national organisations.

He said that in future events of this kind, he will insist a contribution is made to a local charity close to the heart for the community.

The cancellation of the swim comes after another charity swim, the Great North Swim at Windermere, was initially postponed and then cancelled after toxic algae was discovered. It had been hoped to reschedule the event, which attracts 9,000 swimmers, for this weekend but the Environment Agency could not say whether the algae would be gone in time.